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Race hate lives on in 'rainbow nation'

6 April 10 17:57 GMT

By Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Ventersdorp

Sixteen years after the end of white minority rule in South Africa, the court appearance of two young men accused of the murder of white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche has highlighted the level of racial intolerance and hatred still felt by many South Africans - black and white.

Outside court in Ventersdorp, North West province, hundreds of white farmers, many dressed in camouflage, staged a protest, with many saying Terreblanche's killing was the last straw and vowing to "protect" themselves at all costs.

"The gun was loaded, it has been so for years, but the trigger has now been pulled. South Africa is not safe at the moment," said Shaun Labuschagne, an Afrikaner who had travelled from Johannesburg for the court hearing.

"For the past seven years, our people have been wiped out. We are here to plan our next move," he says to me before walking off.

He is referring to the fact that some 3,000 white farmers have been killed since the end of apartheid.

But then about 50 people - mostly black - are murdered each day in this country.

Next to Mr Labuschagne is a man in his mid-20s, Dirkie Cronwright, dressed in full army camouflage.

At first he is reluctant to speak to me, worried that he will say something he might regret, he says.

But then he lets loose, screaming: "There is going to be war here - it is only a matter of time.

"The blacks want everything - they have the country what more do they want?"

"They don't care about us - about the white guys - and that makes me very angry.

"This means war," he says, as if oblivious to the fact that he is speaking to a black person.

'He deserved it'

On the other side of the colour bar, some black people have hailed the two men who killed Terreblanche as heroes.

"God gave them power to kill that man. They did what no-one else could do," says Maria Gantane.

"When [anti-apartheid fighter] Chris Hani died, no white people cried, only us blacks cried."

A man outside court adds: "Terreblanche should have died a long time ago. He has been abusing black workers for years, he deserved to die. We can now live in peace."

"If Terreblanche was to show up now, we would kill him," says another man, a farm worker.

No rainbow nation

Members of Terreblanche's paramilitary group AWB (Afrikaner Resistance Movement) waved flags, carried placards and distributed badges with Afrikaner nationalist symbolism, in a show of unity against what they term "a siege by blacks".

Time has stood still here, monuments celebrating the lives of Afrikaners dating back to the 1800s still stand in many parts of the predominantly white town.

The streets all bear Afrikaans names and many of the shops also have Afrikaans names - there is a silent message that this is no place for blacks.

But a crowd of about 150 black people from surrounding communities did venture into the town for the court appearance.

When the larger crowd of Afrikaners started singing the former national anthem - Die Stem, they retaliated by singing the new post-apartheid anthem Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica (God Bless Africa).

A white woman then splashed water on a young black woman, causing a scuffle to break out and forcing police to use razor wire to separate the two groups.

The Afrikaners hurled racial slurs - calling the blacks "baboons" and "kaffirs" - both derogatory names used to refer to black people.

This was far removed from Nelson Mandela's vision of a new South Africa - a rainbow nation.

In the days of apartheid, the Afrikaners used to dominate South Africa and some still yearn for those days.

Many agree that Saturday's brutal murder has turned a town which had learned to cope with its racism into one which now calls for drastic action including taking up arms, if only for protection.

This has caused a wave of fear in black residents of South Africa's farming areas, where racism remains rife.

In the rest of the country, open signs of racism are rare but black and white South Africans largely lead separate lives.

"I live in the township a few kilometres from town and we don't feel safe as blacks, especially now Terreblanche has been killed," said university student Lesego Tsui.

"I don't even want to go out at night any more because you don't know if the Boers [whites] will come after us."

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